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March 17, 2007

Why the Wii was a dissapointment to me

by e1ven

I was excited about the Nintendo Wii. Standing in line as
the store opened, I was confident that the Wii was going to change
everything- It was the first console that I’d bought for my self since my trusty NES
almost 15 years ago.. The first time I’d been excited about console
games in nearly as long.

I’d played other consoles with various friends, and have been a PC gamer my entire life.. But this was the first console in years I’d really wanted.
And I’m think I’m going to be returning it this Saturday..

As I stood in line, I bought some of the most popular games that were
out- I picked up Zelda: Twilight Princess, of course, as well as Wario,
and the new Sonic Game.. I bought 4 controllers, complete with classic
controllers and nunchucks. I was set. I was ready.

And as I first fired it up, I was impressed.. The Channel based UI was
well done.. I could feel when I was over an option.. It was clean, and
it was easy to use. It strangely reminded me of using a Macintosh.

I probably spent three hours getting everything set up, before I played
any of the games- I designed a Mii, I downloaded Opera and tried a few
websites.. I even went on a buying spree in the Virtual Console.

I loved the Virtual Console- I hadn’t bought a console since the NES, so
I knew there was a lot I had missed out on in the console world.. I
picked up a few favorites, like Super Mario Brothers, as well as a few
games that I felt I SHOULD have known about, but didn’t yet, like the
SNES version of Zelda or Castlevania..

And I started playing a few games.. And that’s where the enthusiasm
started to dampen, and the reality of the limitations started to hit me.
None of the specific problems were deal breakers.. But the total sum of
them makes the system infuriating.

In talking with my friends, I compared it to grades in school- When a
paper gets a C, you look at it, and you’re glad you passed. You know you
could have done better, but it’s a reasonable, solid grade..

But when you get a paper back, and you get a B+, it’s worse- You know
that if you had done just that little bit more, it would have been
perfect… That’s how I feel about the Wii… The PS3 and 360 each have
strengths and weaknesses, but on whole they’re solid middle of the pack
performers.. The Wii is SO close to being perfect, that the flaws stand
out all the more..

I suppose you could analogize it to the Uncanny Valley of User
Interface- It’s why UI flaws in OSX bother people so much more than UI
flaws in Windows.. Why people obsess over Pinstripes, or lack of them,
where they never mention the multitude of UI styles in windows.

The first major problem was with the Virtual Console.. It’s a great
application, and has so much potential.. But it stops before realizing
what it could be..

The first major problem comes in Saving- I love that I can play Mario
Brothers 1 again, and it works well, and without graphical or audio
glitches like those that occasionally crop up in emulators.. What I
don’t love is that I can’t save.

Every emulator in the last 10 years has had the ability to make
savepoints. Dump memory to a file, load it in later. It’s a great
feature, and compared with the task of emulating 15 year old hardware,
relatively trivial.
Nintendo went out of their way NOT to add it.

It’s frustrating- I understand that I can use the Home menu, to back out
of a game, and then return to it later.. Essentially- I have one save
that I can later restore. Restoring this save then deletes it.

I understand that they want gamers to have an Authentic experience.. That they’re trying to avoid
having gamers use multiple saves and restores to back up to a savepoint
every time they die.. But this is an out of date notion. Rather than letting the user choose how to play, Nintendo is unilaterally making that decision for everyon.

There’s quite a few reasons this is frustrating- I might want to save to show a cool are in the game, or cutscene, to a friend.

Further now that I’m older, I find that I have less time than I didwhen I was 10.

If I die in the final castle in Mario, I’m not going to
play through it all again, I’m going to tire of the game, and put it
away. This is particularly poignant when you realize that the Wii is
targeted and marketed toward more casual gamers, who are exactly the
people who aren’t going to play the game over from the beginning.

What really makes this feel unacceptable, is that the Wii is intended to be
used by Multiple people, and the Savestate support that current exists
does not support this at all. If I start a game, that is the ONLY
instance of the game that can be played.. If my friends want to try a
game of Sonic, they can either resume from my save, or they can throw
away my progress..

This may be authentic, but is it good gameplay?

The Second major problem with the Virtual Console comes in the
experience of the games themselves-

While I enjoy being able to play games from the past, It’s frustrating that I can’t have the full experience.
In particular, games like Starfox for the N64 were designed with Rumble in mind..
This seems like an easy fix- The Wiimore already has rumble, but I can’t experience that on any classic games.

Alternatively, Nintendo might release a simple clip which holds the Wiimote to the
bottom of the Classic Controller, so that the whole apparatus shook using the existing rumbler.

Easy, simple, and gives me a feature that everyone else had nearly 10
years ago.

We also see games with disabled features, such as Mario Kart.
The game doesn’t allow you to save in-game; This is something that could be fixed with multiple savestates (as described earlier), but it also seems like it should be possible to work around.

My third concern with the console is that the GameCube emulation
requires a Gamecube controller.
I love that Nintendo lets people use GameCube controllers to play
Gamecube games. It makes sense, and is certainly an optimal
configuration for most games..But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be
allowed to use the Classic controller.

Looking at the Classic Controller next to a Gamecube controller, it
seems intuitive that the Classic Controller was designed to replicate
the Gamecube’s functionality.. The buttons are all there, albeit not in
the same positions. The classic controller has features like the
dual-analog sticks that are unneeded for all of the Virtual Console
games, but that would be perfect for the GameCube games.
And yet, it doesn’t work.

To play a GameCube game, I have to go out, buy new GameCube compatible
controllers, which use their own system, and are one more
accessory to store and possibly lose. It’s annoying, and it’s worse
because it didn’t have to be this way.. Let me use the Classic
Controller for GameCube games. I understand it’s not the original
controller, but it’s close enough, and it fits into the design far better.

Finally, there’s the control scheme of the Games themselves.. I played
Twilight Princess, I played Sonic, Wario Ware, Wii Sports, Wii Play..
I’ve looked through a cross section of reviews online..
The controls aren’t right yet. I understand that Zelda: Twilight
Princess is essentially running on the same engine as Ocarina of Time..
I understand it’s a port, not a true Wii game.. But running around in
the game is infuriating.

The Camera points wherever it wants to, usually directly behind Link.
This was fine for N64 games, since moving a camera with a control stick
is often a pain.. But this doesn’t have to be the way things are now..

The Xbox, and the later Xbox 360 games have proven that games CAN by
having the user move the camera with one Analog stick, while moving the
character with the other.. but the Wii can go even further than this. It
can finally, for the first time in consoles, support one of the features
which makes PC gaming a unique experience- Mouselook.

I’d love to be able to take a Wiimote in hand, and turn the camera with
it, moving forward, or strafing, using the Analog stick, just as one
would use WASD on a PC title.. This seems like such a simple request,
such an obvious feature.. And yet it’s still lacking. Games still aren’t
supporting this for the most part, when it seems the most flexible and
intuitive combination.

Finally, the Wii suffers from a lack of integration.. It has a great
array of features, but it’s not using them throughout the system,
leading to an experience far below what it could be..
The Wii has built-in online support, but it’s barely used.. I’e read
that Nintendo isn’t offering 3rd parties access to the API until 2008,
crippling the early Wii games.. This is combined with the lack of
support in Nintendo’s offerings.

Why can’t I play a 2 Virtual Console game over the network? Again, it
seems that emulators have had this feature for years, and yet the Legal,
Official way falls short. If I buy a copy of Toejam and Earl, and my
friend in Florida buys a copy of the same, why can’t we fire the games
up, and connect to one another, feeding the network input into the
controllers?

If I make a Mii, and my other local friends make Miis, why can’t we
store user settings in each Mii, so that when I’m logged in, I get my
set of saves and not theirs? Why can’t I save global settings in the
Mii, such as “Reverse Axis of Wiimote”?

Why is Nintendo so far behind Microsoft on Internet Support? As I
understand, Microsoft required every Xbox game to have some basic Live
support, even if it’s trivial.. They track awards and highscores, and
they push interaction.. Nintendo seems to be doing just the opposite-
They *could* use Miis for Online chat, storing points and the like, but
they’ve chosen not to take basic steps in that direction. They aren’t
using Online support internally, they aren’t making online support easy
for 3rd parties.

Why isn’t Nintendo opening the Virtual Console to original, 3rd party
games? There Nintendo Wii, and its’s cousin the DS have done more to help
Casual Games than practically any other since the adoption of the
internet.. But Nintendo is still holding back from opening the
floodgates- Xbox live Arcade lets companies release small, downloadable
games, that users can buy and add to their console..
With the Virtual Arcade, and Wii points, Nintendo has everything in
place to do this, but they still insist on keeping their system closed..
Imagine what Popcap games could do, or the possibility for a King’s
Quest-style Adventure game on the Wii.. There’s a lot of room to
experiment and try new things, and Nintendo is running away from the
chance to embrace it.

As I mentioned, there is no single feature which has made me so
frustrated with the Wii- It’s a great system, and pushing the boundaries
further than anyone else out there.. The problem is, at the end of the
day, it’s not FUN yet. I don’t want to own a console because of it’s
potential, or it’s chance to change things.. I want to own a console
because it’s a fun way to enjoy some time. Right now, the Wii doesn’t do
that.

I understand that other people may enjoy their console, and I don’t
begrudge them that- I’m sure it’s a great console for them..
Some of my friends think so- Knowing it’s flaws, they’ve offered to take
the Wii, and pay me what I paid for it, so I may end up doing that,
rather than returning it to the retail store.. I’m happy they can enjoy
it- It’s just not compelling enough to me yet.. And that’s hard, since
it’s so very, very close.

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